Virgil Thomson was a pillar of 20th Century American music and a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. Although he looks a bit grumpy in this photo, rest assured he was a productive, creative individual, producing 8 books in addition to his numerous compositions. He also earned 20 honorary doctorates. 20!
All that before the computer and "the internets."
1. Thomson was a paid organist at the age of 12 and attended Harvard on scholarship. (Link)
Having a regular gig from the age of 12 is pretty spectacular by any standard. A scholarship to Harvard? An amazing opportunity, one he used well.
2. He spent 1925-1940 in Paris and met/became friends with an impressive list of people:
Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, e e cummings, Aaron Copland, Jean Cocteau, Scott Fitzgerald, Christian Dior, and Orson Welles. Just to name a few.
Thomson also studied with Nadia Boulenger, one of the 20th Century's most accomplished and famous composition teachers. (If you are in my voice studio, you will be learning about her over the next couple of months!)
3. Thomson insisted on accompanying the world premiere of "Praises and Prayers" in 1963 and was reportedly sloppy in his rhythm and even skipped ahead a whole measure at one point.
That's like forgetting to put the milk in the fridge...dangerous. These songs are dependent upon their own rhythm and text accentuation. (Read: these songs are hard and incredibly rewarding.)
Luckily Mark Sedio and I know what we're doing and we won't be skipping a measure when we perform 3 songs from this song cycle on June 22nd at Central Lutheran in Minneapolis. Here are all the important points in one:
Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.
"Praises and Prayers" by Virgil Thomson
1. From The Canticle of the Sun (St. Francis of Assissi)
2. My Master Hath a Garden (Anonymous)
3. Jerusalem, My Happy Home (Anonymous stanzas on "Mater Hierusalem Civitas Sancta Dei" from The Meditations of Saint Augustine, Ch. XXV)
with Mark Sedio, piano
333 S 12th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404